For millions of years, the geological upheavals are reflected strongly in the intense relief of the island. While mountains rose, the river water continued its corrosional route through the limestone terrain, forming today's "land of gorges", Crete. With more than 400 canyons, Crete hosts the largest number of gorges in Greece. Many travel agencies offer packages for gorge trekking and there is are several hiking and mountaineering clubs based in Heraklion, Chania, Rethymnon, Agios Nikolaos, Sitia, Ierapetra and Mires.
Cretan rivers meet large faults and steep descents during their course through the canyons, forming hundreds of small and high waterfalls. Crossing gorges of Crete with high waterfalls is possible only by using technical equipment. Appropriate training in canyoneering techniques can be offered by specialist companies on the island. The most popular technical canyons of Crete include the imposing gorge Ha, Tsoutsouras, Kalami, the gorge of Arvi (which after an 80m high fall turns into a dark underground river) and many more.
The Samaria Gorge is the longest trekking gorge in Europe and also the most famous of all. Thousands of tourists flock here daily in the summer season to walk from the top to the bottom. For many visitors, it is the sole purpose of their visit to Crete. The length of the gorge reaches 18km and takes almost 4-7 hours to hike from Omalos to Agia Roumeli, depending on trekking speed.
The amazing gorge of Richtis is located in Lasithi Prefecture, on the north side, between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia. It starts just outside the village Exo Mouliana and ends at the Richtis beach, east of the village of Kalabro. The total length of the route is approximately 3 kilometers and the elevation difference between the starting point and the beach is about 350 meters. The gorge, even in summer, has enough water, which is used by locals.
The gorge of Patsos or Agios Antonios is located 8 km southwest of the Monastery of Arkadi, in the heart of the lush province of Amari. The water of the gorge is poured in the the dam of Potamoi. Trekking in the gorge is very easy, since it is managed by the Forest Service.
The Gorge of Kourtaliotis is located 22km south of Rethymno and has a length of 3km. It is one of the most spectacular natural attractions of Rethymnon. It starts from the village Koxare and flows between the mountains Kouroupis (984 m) and Xiro Oros (Dry Mountain - 904m). The huge cliffs of the canyon reach a height of 600 meters and are full of openings and caves, where significant fauna species live.
Imbros Gorge is located in province Sfakia and is the third most visited gorge in Crete, following Samaria Gorge and Agia Irini by Sougia. The scenery is beautiful and the low difficulty make the descent of Imbros ideal for families with children. The length of the gorge is 11 km and the course lasts 2-3 hours.
The gorge of Agios Nikolaos, Gafaris or Rouvas is bounded by the peaks of Ambelakia from east and Samari from west. This is the most important gorge of Psiloritis and central Crete and took its name from the homonymous Byzantine church in the south entrance. This is an ecosystem with rich flora and fauna, smaller canyons and interesting geological formations and cliffs of rare beauty.
The Gorge of Mylonas or Saint John is located 18km east of Ierapetra. It starts near the village of St. John, at an altitude of 500m, and ends at the beach of Kakia Skala. Descending the gorge from Saint John is impossible, as it is stopped by a high waterfall, and canyoning equipment is necessary.
Mili Gorge is a stunning green oasis near the town of Rethymno. It is actuallya ravine inside which hosts a huge number of plants and trees, a real botanic garden. It is located north of the village Chromonastiri and south of Xero Chorio. In recent years it attracts many walkers who trek along a nice trail.